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 World Affairs

'The Greatest Show on Earth' goes global

It is called the Greatest Show on Earth and already the world is watching the initial stages of the drama to select the next president of the United States, described as the most powerful man - and now possibly woman - on Earth. It has become a global show in this 'global village' with international TV channels, radio broadcasts, internet and online newspaper reports and commentaries bringing the events right into our homes - even in poor Third World countries like ours.

The curtain will come down only in nine months time but the show has commenced with plenty of drama.

At the beginning there was the former first lady of the White House, Senator Hillary Clinton, way ahead in the race with no Democratic contenders in sight. Barack Obama, the black senator from Illinois was known but not considered to be presidential material. And who would have thought a black man - whose father was a Kenyan - would have the gumption to run for White House in this country known for WASPs - White Anglo Saxon Protestants? Obama is now getting support from all communities including whites and is now among the three front runners for the presidency.

Super Tuesday

Last Tuesday was known as Super Tuesday with both Democrats and Republicans choosing their delegates to their party conventions where the nominees of the parties for presidency would be chosen.

Voting in the Democratic primaries resulted in Hillary Clinton winning eight states and Barack Obama 13 states. But Clinton led Obama in the number of delegates - 584 against 563. The system in the Democratic Party is that each candidate retains the delegates elected for him or her for the convention, while in the Republican Party the winner takes all.

Maverick Republican John Mc Cain who was down in the dumps at the start of the campaign ran out of money, fired most of his campaign staff, hung on, and has finally emerged as the clear front runner beating all other Republican candidates.  Rudy Guliani, the former mayor of New York who came into national focus over his role after the 9/11 tragedy was the favourite for Republic nomination, but after his defeat at the Florida primary two weeks ago, he bowed out leaving only Mc Cain and millionaire Mitt Romney.

Romney, a venture capitalist was governor of Massachusetts, and had already spent about  $35 million of his own funds in the campaign. But after Super Tuesday, the good looking Romney who looks more like a Hollywood star, bowed out of the race by 'suspending his campaign' which in effect means that he will not be a contender.

That leaves only Mc Cain as the credible Republican candidate with Mike Huckabee trailing behind but refusing to give up. John Mc Cain  won nine states on Super Tuesday to Romney's seven but Mc Cain had 511 delegates elected to Romney's 176. The Republican system of winner takes all delegates of a state left Mc Cain a clear winner.

Better conservative

The Republican contest appeared to be about who is the better conservative with Mc Cain and Romney going into each other's past records. Mc Cain is considered a heretic among the Republicans for his policies on taxation, immigration and finance.

An analyst described him: He defies one of the oldest traditions in politics in winning by refusing to tell the people what they want to hear. In the recent Florida primaries, Governor Charlie Crist tried to persuade the candidates to back a federal subsidy for home insurance for  people who live in hurricane prone areas. Opponents argued that by making such a move it would ensure that more houses are destroyed in future hurricanes. Guliani promptly supported the plan, Romney hemmed and hawed but Mc Cain had asked the Governor 'to get stuffed.'

And Mc Cain won. The plain talking war hero had got the better of the suave businessmen who said that he understood the economy of the country 'right down to his DNA' and that Mc Cain did not know about the economy. Mc Cain did not contest the assertion but reports said that in private he admitted that Romney was right on that point.

Iraq War

Romney stepping down in favour of Mc Cain however could raise the issue of the war in Iraq which had not been featuring strongly in the debates in the primaries. Romney in announcing his decision said that he was doing so because he did not want to help Clinton or Obama to win the election against Mc Cain because both of them were willing to 'surrender' Iraq.

Mc Cain however had consistently resisted withdrawal of US troops and supported the 'surge' tactic of sending the number of troops required. Now it appeared that the 'surge' had worked and sectarian violence in Iraq had decreased considerably although some argue that it is for other reasons than the increased presence of US troops.

The fear of terrorism and US losing its place as the superpower of the world was one reason for President George W. Bush winning his second term it is claimed, even though the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, winner of many Purple Hearts in the Vietnam war was a much better candidate. The chances of the old war horse with home grown values  winning the race should be considered, particularly, depending on the turn of events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Race and religion

How the issue of race and religion would feature in the race should also be a consideration even though Barack Obama has so far been able to overcome them. Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein and attempts are made to use this against him. Obama, however has stated that his father was a Kenyan though  raised as a Muslim and was a confirmed atheist at the time he married his white mother, an American living at that time in Honolulu.

His Indonesian stepfather, he had said, was 'a man who saw religion as not being particularly useful.' His mother was a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ and Obama too had been baptised in this church. 

The Greatest Show on Earth has now only three actors on stage but it has still nine months to go. 

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